Historic Rogersville house to be razed, building materials salvaged

Jeff Bobo • Apr 12, 2018 at 11:31 AM

ROGERSVILLE — One of Rogersville’s oldest houses is going to be torn down, but city leaders are hoping someone will salvage the building materials, such as its abundance of antebellum brick, to help save other historic structures.

On Tuesday, the Board of Mayor and Aldermen voted to advertise for bids for someone to pay the city to salvage the mid-19th century Blue Spring House, which is located on East Main Street next to the City Park.

A log cabin that was at the rear of the existing house dated back to 1819. That cabin was torn down a few years ago, leaving a section of existing structure’s rear attic wall open.

According to a Hawkins County genealogy study, the Blue Spring House, also known as the Fulkerson House, was built by Rogersville attorney, soldier, banker, and state Sen. George Hale, probably not long after he married his second wife in 1843.

Hale, who served as a colonel during the War of 1812, died in 1862 and was buried in the garden.

Rogersville bought the house and 1.5 acre lot for $75,000 in 2016 for use as a park expansion.

The property had been on the market for nearly a decade prior to that sale and at one time was purchased by a credit union that wanted to build a branch there.

That structure wasn’t built, however, because the Rogersville Historical Commission denied the credit union permission to demolish the old house.

There were attempts in recent years to find a buyer willing to restore the house.

It was listed for around $150,000 prior to being sold to the city two years ago. In 2015, the cost of renovating the Blue Spring House was estimated at roughly $100,000 by Rogersville Building Inspector Steve Nelson.

Nelson told the Times News Wednesday, however, that with the house being open at the rear and exposed to the elements, any attempt now to restore the house wouldn’t be economically feasible.

Nelson said the Rogersville Historical Commission recently gave its approval to raze the old house.

“I’ve been in the house, and there’s a tremendous amount of brick that’s quite salvageable,” Nelson told the BMA Tuesday evening. “There’s a whole lot of wood trim. Some molding. Floor joists. A tremendous amount of really good, salvageable material.”

Nelson added, “Rather than letting bids for somebody to just tear it down, I think we ought to let bids for how much somebody will give us to salvage it.”

There’s a demand for antebellum brick and other pre-Civil War building materials by companies that do historic renovations. 

Alderman Mark DeWitte said he’d like to see a provision in the salvage agreement that if the salvaged materials are used to restore historic Rogersville buildings, the city would be willing to accept a lower bid price.

“If they’re going to help us in another way, that might mitigate the cost as well,” DeWitte said. “It doesn’t necessarily have to go to the highest bidder.”

City Attorney Bill Phillips said the city can solicit bids in any manner the board desires, and if an opportunity suggested by DeWitte presents itself, the board could accept it.

The board voted unanimously to solicit bids for someone to remove the structure, either for cash alone or as a part of an agreement to use the materials to perform renovations elsewhere in the city.

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